In 1769 the Spanish priest Father Junipero Serra set off on an expedition with Gaspar de Portola to found missions in New Spain (California). His main motivation was to Christianize the natives & to make them loyal subjects of Spain. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission is the 2nd in a chain of 21 missions located along the El Camino Real (the Royal Hwy in Spanish) from San Diego to Sonoma. They are spaced about 30 miles apart from each other or 1 days journey on foot or horseback. The Mission in Carmel was Father Serras favorite. He served as Presidente of the Missions there, died there & is buried there under the floor of the church.The Mission was founded in 1770 & is one of the oldest Spanish styled buildings in California.
During my first visit to Carmel, I got up very early and walked down the hill to the beach and Pacific Ocean. That particular day the waves were extremely high--10 to 15 feet - and were roaring in like the sound of a freight train. The closer I got, the colder the air became. It was a very powerful sight. I've been to the beaches along California's coast many times since then, but haven't seen waves as high and as forceful as they were that morning.
The Carmel Mission was founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra. The first mission church in California to be built from stone, this beautiful old church does not disappoint.
The church was in session when we visited, and a hushed, peaceful atmosphere surrounded the old building-inside and out. Beautiful dark wooden pews, polished to perfection, shone in the light of the overhanging chandeliers.
The gardens surrounding the church were in full bloom. One can see the cell that Junipero Serra lived in, and he is buried within the church grounds.
The church building is considered the most authentically restored Franciscan mission. The courtyard and gardens are peaceful places to meditate or rest.
Self-guided tours are available. Admission to the grounds and mission is $5 for adults,
There is also a museum within the grounds, which gives information and photographs of the Monterey Peninsula and other Francescan missions. Good photo history of the restoration of the Mission.
Museum shows visitors what Mission San Carlos Borromeo was like during different eras through displays, and allows them to see the cell where Junipero Serra lived and died.
Entrance donations ($5 adult, $4 senior, $1 child) go to the restoration of the mission. The Carmel Mission's museum is open Monday through Saturday 9:30am-5pm and Sundays, 10:30am-5pm.
From Carmel you can go through the scenic Big Sur. Big Sur is a thinly-settled region of the central California coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean.
This geology produces stunning views and has become a magnet for global tourism.
Since gazing at the views while driving is not advisable, the highway features a number of strategically placed turnouts allowing motorists to stop and admire the landscape.
Indeed, the section of Highway 1 running through Big Sur is widely considered as one of the most scenic driving routes in the United States, if not the world.
Besides sightseeing from the highway, Big Sur offers hiking, mountain climbing, and other outdoor activities.
The 17 Mile Drive is a scenic route that runs from Monterey to Carmel. Starting in Pacific Grove, the road follows the Pacific Coast line, through the exclusive Pebble Beach area and then loops back via the Del Monte Forest.
We only drove the most scenic section (around 10 miles) from the Pacific Grove Gate to the Carmel Gate. The cost to enter the area was $9.50 per car (Sep 2008), but we felt the lovely coastal scenery certainly made it worthwhile. Upon entry, you will be given a useful map which highlights the main points of interest along the way.
We stopped to look at Bird Rock, home to shorebirds and also seals and sea lions, and enjoyed the coastal views from Cypress Point Lookout. Speaking of Cypresses, we saw the 'Lone Cypress', which has been sitting alone on its rocky perch for over 250 years. We also saw the Ghost Tree, and went for a wander at Pescadero Point.
The most exciting thing we saw, from Alex's point of view anyway, was a glimpse of the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, which he dreams of playing at one day.
Carmel beach is a wonderful place to chill down and take a walk. It's almost deserted and if you do it at the end of the day, it's delightful.
The sea is a bit rough usually and it's windy but for me it was an excellent way to unwind and see the magnificent views surrounding the beach.
Carmel by the Sea is home to some beautiful crescent beaches. The most popular is Carmel Beach with its famous white sand. The water is a beautiful aqua blue color and the pristine shores are crowned with native bush and surrounded by hills covered with majestic Monterey Pines and Cypress.
1) Drive south down to Big Sur and stop at Ventana Inn. Drive in and head to the restaurant. Request a table on the patio for the best views of the Pacific Ocean and the mountians. We've seen mountain lions and whales migrating while eating a delicious lunch. Nice place to stay if you have $700 a night to spend. Such a special place to us that my husband and I got engaged there.
2) Shopping in Carmel is great. A hidden treasure is the Barnyard shopping area of highway 1 by the Carmel Valley. Unique shops, nice restaurants, and beautiful flowers. The farmer's market is here. Check the "Pine Cone" for dates and times.
3) La Boheme is one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at (and I have eaten around the world). Great food in a completely original setting. Fixed menu, so check immediately when you get to town to pick a night with food you like. The steak with bernaise is a spectacular meal.
Along the Monterrey coast in general, the sea life is very rich. Birds, sea lions, otters, and whales are common tourist attractions here. I like going to visit Pebble Beach along a cove where the biologists have fenced off the beach access to protect sea lions. In this cove also are many otters swimming. The tide pools are great places to see the sea life in the water.
Carmel is a lovely small town , very relaxed and with a wonderful atmosphere. It has beautiful houses and nice shopping galleries and small shops.
To go for a walk and see all this , do some shopping, sit in a cafe while having a drink or a cappucino is a wonderful way of spending the time and getting acquainted with Carmel.
Don't forget to go down the street that leads to the beach and put your feet in the sand. The smell of the sea will make you feel really good!
The Mission Gardens have a variety of beautiful flowers to enjoy. From the bouganvillia climbing on the adobe walls to colorful flower beds. The grounds of the traquil Mission Grounds are best explored in the Spring for color, but there are alot of succulents and evergreens that are nice year round as well.
The beach houses in Carmel have been restored, expanded, and otherwise enhanced from the tiny bungalows of the 1930's to modern works of art now worth millions. The building codes are very strict in Carmel, such that building up is not possible if the view of the property behind is blocked, so when modification is done, special orange barrier plastic outlines the planned height and area to be expanded into, in case deep pocketed neighbors want to complain or contractors are tempted to fudge additional height. Cyprus trees can't be cut down, but rather must be built around and protected at the root base during construction work. The stone work and roofing of these homes are world class efforts done mostly by local contractor talent and workers capable of such artestry. The photos here don't do justice to the setting and extraordinary efforts found in Carmel.
The Carmel Mission was constructed in the late 1700s as part of the chain of California Missions founded by Father Junipero Serra. Although first established in nearby Monterey, the Mission was moved after one year to be closer to the Carmel River and its abundance of fresh water. The California Missions were about one day’s travel from each other so that a traveler could reach the next one by nightfall. With an original intent of converting the Native American Indians to Catholicism, unfortunately some Indians did experience some harsh treatment as a result of the Mission System.
The Mission is still an active parish and is open to the public to explore. The old church is impressive and definitely worth a look inside. The Mission contains a museum and various other historical displays within its grounds.
To enter the Mission grounds, go through the visitors' center. We visited the Mission on a Sunday, and as masses were conducted throughout the day, no admission was charged. Donations, however, were appreciated.
Drive along the coastline away from the broad whites sand beach and you will discover some beautiful rocky points. It is not only scenic but fun to climb on the rocks and explore the little nooks & crannies for sea life, shells and native plants.
Get a hold of a car and take the drive down to Big Sur (30-40 minutes south). Ask for directions to Pfeiffer Beach on the way down (its not too far below Carmel) where you can drive down to a cliff-surrounded beach with spectacular views. The whole area is breathtaking. It amazes me how magnificent nature can be.
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